Susan Pardue is violist and artistic director for The Florida Chamber Music Project, which provides live classical music in an intimate chamber music setting for residents of St. Johns County, St. Augustine, Clay County and the surrounding areas of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. The concerts take place at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall.
What inspired you to create the “Florida Chamber Music Project” 5 years ago?
I have always loved chamber music. I felt a need for this music to be presented here by a local group on an ongoing basis. The chamber music repertoire is some of the most beautiful and intimate music written.
Working together equally, the artists participate in a musical conversation. There is no conductor; different members serve as leader at different times. Each musician is equally important and their work as a team determines how a composition should develop and be presented. The continuity of a core group of musicians playing together over a course of years results in mutual understanding and enhanced ensemble skills. This means a better finished product for the audience.
You are the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall’s resident chamber music ensemble. How did you come to choose the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall as the venue for your concerts?
St. Johns County acquired the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in 2011 with a vision to bring quality performing arts programming to enhance cultural activities in the area. The musicians and I had many friends who lived in that area and knew that there were not many opportunities to experience an intimate performance of chamber music by a string quartet on a regular basis.
It seemed to me that we would be a natural fit for the Concert Hall. And so, our President Emeritus, Danny Berenberg, and our Interim President, Earl Barker, and I, approached St. Johns County about becoming the resident chamber music ensemble at the Concert Hall. And as they say, the rest is history.
As artistic director and violist, what’s your vision for this chamber music series? Tell us about your theme “Music among friends”?
The tradition of chamber music was established in the late 1700s and early 1800s and consisted of secular music that was originally performed in private households. It ultimately expanded to include performances in intimate halls and venues, much like the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall.
My vision is for the chamber music series and musicians to continue to evolve and grow. As we continue to play together, our skills and our repertoire will increase, allowing us to provide more music for a wide variety of people.
Due to its intimate nature, chamber music was, and still is, music by friends, for friends, and among friends. Chamber music is all about relationships and interaction – beginning with the concert performance and continuing at the reception following each of our concerts where we can converse one-on-one with familiar friends and welcome new ones to our family.
How would you describe the audience experience at your concerts? What makes it unique?
We want the audience to experience the excitement and passion that we have for chamber music. The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, a wonderful, versatile space, provides the intimacy needed for chamber music concerts. Rather than on stage, the ensemble sits on a small platform just high enough to make sight lines better for the audience, whose close proximity allows them to experience the vitality of the music and to observe the communication between the musicians. We hope that the audience realizes that they are an important part of our performances. We enjoy meeting and discussing music with our audience after our concerts.
There are 5 concerts in your series. Three are remaining: March 4th, April 8th, May 6th. What excites you about these upcoming concerts?
The music is what excites me most about these concerts. The April concert is especially exciting because we will be playing Schubert’s Trout Quintet. This piece uses a piano, and we don’t always have a piano at our concerts, so it is exciting for us. Also, the pianist, Hyunsoon Whang, is a personal friend and former schoolmate, so I am very happy to be able to make music with her again.
Where are you from? How did you come to reside in Northeast Florida?
I am originally from North Carolina, and moved here to accept a job with the Jacksonville Symphony. I went to school at the North Carolina School of the Arts and the Juilliard School before accepting a Fulbright Scholarship to study with Piero Farulli in Florence, Italy. Maestro Farulli was the violist and one of the founders of Quartetto Italiano, and studying with him further increased my desire to play more chamber music. When I returned from Italy, I played with the New World Symphony in Miami before winning the job I have now with the Jacksonville Symphony. I am happy to bring more chamber music to St. Johns County.
How has St. Augustine changed over the last 10 years?
I have seen expansive growth in the arts and culture scene in the St. Augustine area especially since the adoption of the Cultural Development Implementation Plan by St. Johns County in 2010.
This plan focused on making the area an arts and culture destination for both residents and tourists. Since the adoption of the plan, the synergy between the relevant arts and culture organizations, the St. Johns Cultural Council, business community, government agencies, and artists has been phenomenal and has resulted in an explosion in the type and number of arts and culture events and destinations in the St. Augustine area.
With the addition of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre in 2007 and the acquisition of the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in 2011, St. Johns County has been able to add even more arts and culture opportunities in the St. Augustine area to truly make it a world-class arts and culture destination. We are excited to be a part of it.